COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), Joint Program Executive Office Armaments and Ammunition, Program Manager Close Combat Systems
TITLE: Program support specialist
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 12 years
AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management
EDUCATION: B.A. in history, University of Richmond
AWARDS: Army Civilian Service Achievement Medal (2019)
by Cheryl Marino
Whether it’s on the job or in daily life, we all, at one time or another, find ourselves in a situation where a decision needs to be made and we react accordingly. But it’s how we react that will determine the best—or worst—outcome.
Mark Shaeffer has found this to be true on many occasions and one of the most important lessons he’s learned during the course of his career is that what may at times appear to be “reality” in some circumstances is not always the case. He said when determining what has just taken place—in any given circumstance—people don’t always consider all contributing factors and typically jump to immediate conclusions. Which, he said, ultimately leads to hasty decisions, ineffective strategies and sometimes formulating the wrong conclusions.
Shaeffer’s position as a program specialist supports U.S. Army foreign military sales while protecting U.S. technology. His responsibilities routinely involve weighing options before deriving viable solutions.
“My role not only supports the U.S. National Security Strategy, but also enables our warfighters to work confidentially alongside coalition forces with the same systems they have trained on and used throughout their careers,” he said. So hastily made decisions could have serious consequences. “My greatest satisfaction comes from finding solutions to complex challenges, especially when our allies have an urgent requirement for a U.S. Army capability,” he said. “However, in the rush to deliver needed capabilities, it would be easy to overlook technology security or foreign disclosure concerns. Therefore, I lean heavily on several key organizations and tools within the U.S. Army to walk the fine line between security assistance and guarding U.S. interests.”
Although some might say Shaeffer entered the Army Acquisition Workforce by chance, he would somewhat disagree. “I was in the middle of a major career change having come out of industry and non-profit organizations, and a munitions management information analyst position was the only opening that was available. To me, it was more than ‘by chance,’ ” he said. “Looking back it was more than a lucky win for me to land and excel in the job.”
Shaeffer said he values the mentoring and coaching he has received from army acquisition professionals more than anything. “They have taught me so much—not only how to wade through the tasks at hand, but more importantly how to think strategically, communicate effectively and to always conduct myself in an ethical manner while striving for excellence.” He said it’s one thing to know policy or standard operating procedures, but quite another to observe how a professional navigates difficult conversations or lays out a road map to solve complex acquisition challenges. “I have had the privilege of working with those who have 20 to 30 years of positive experience in army acquisition who can flesh out what it means to wisely apply what they learned in a DAU [Defense Acquisition University] class or in a previous letter of request from another foreign partner,” he said.
Shaeffer said he has focused on classes that sharpen and develop leadership and communication skills for the past two years. “This has been very helpful to me to take a step back and look at where I am as a leader and communicator,” he said. “I have found areas in which I needed to grow and these Army-sponsored classes lend themselves well to analyzing myself and then the immediate implementation of what I have learned in class. I would highly recommend maintaining a good balance between technical training as well as class work that hones soft skills.”
He believes there is a common link between his personal life and work as an Army acquisition professional when it comes to striving for justice and providing opportunities for those around him.
“I hold deep convictions with regard to Biblical faith and family,” he said. These values apply both in and outside of work. Shaeffer has pastored churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and said he has transferred the grace he has received to his family—he and his wife have 14 children, three of which were adopted internationally, and four grandchildren. “It seems that much of what I do takes on an international flavor,” he said. “Whether it is helping kids from hard places or positioning the U.S. Army to assist a partner nation with a serious national security threat, I am fully engaged in doing what I can.” he said.
“I believe we are accountable to do what we can now to establish justice in this world in a framework of truth,” he said, adding that this is why potential worst case scenarios should never drive people to rushed, faulty decisions.
“Regardless of what ‘reality’ truly is, my Biblical convictions provide a resilience far beyond what I can muster on my own, and the moral and ethical guidance to always do what is right and excellent,” he said. “And this in combination with solid analysis is what I attempt to bring to bear to my work as an army acquisition professional.”
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.